Meddling the line between “Superbad” and “The Way, Way Back,” “Adventureland” is as insecure and unsure of itself as its young adult characters. Not so much a coming-of-age drama nor a teen giggle fest (despite the ample amount of comedic talent involved,) “Adventureland” trots forward with its shoulders slouched, its dialogue delivered through mumbles than fully-realized, emotional annunciations.
Jesse Eisenberg plays James Brennan, an aspiring journalist and soon-to-be Columbia graduate student who has to take on a dreary job at at a local amusement park over the summer. At the park, he befriends Joel (Martin Starr), a games coworker who’s sense of humor is so dry that sarcastic might as well be written on his name tag. James also bumps into Em (Kristen Stewart), a whip-smart, down-to-earth employee who captures his heart and emotional fancy. But there’s also the handsomer, exponentially more charming Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds) who is in romantic cahoots with Em.
The movie deals with common teen and early-20s tropes like losing your virginity, suffering the needless nags of overbearing parents, and being your crush’s perennial runner-up in favor of a much more experienced partner. While “Adventureland” probably offered a fresh stance on these topics circa-2010, its weird to approach this movie eight years later where these actors have carved out more distinctive niches for themselves, Reynolds and Stewart particularly.
Even if we trying to push aside the fog of time and look at this movie through a fresh lens, “Adventureland” still isn’t that funny or emotionally insightful. The poster itself is akin to “Superbad’s” in color scheme and type face, with “Adventureland” constantly evoking a sense that things should be funnier than they actually are. As for the emotional core, its rooted in that helplessness of not pursuing a person you love or knowing what the future brings. These dilemmas ring true to every 20-something (and really everyone) but they’ve been so overdone in coming-of-age cinema that “Adventureland” feels like a feature-length trope even in its most earnest attempts.